IRDA Winning Author Barbara Black: “Crafting a well-written book that will interest and touch other people is my main goal.”

Music from a Strange Planet: Stories was the winner in the SHORT STORIES category of the 2023 IndieReader Discovery Awards, where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference.

Following find an interview with author Barbara Black.

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

Music from a Strange Planet: Stories. Published by Caitlin Press in May, 2021.

What’s the book’s first line?

“Bert always wanted a cigarette right when something interesting was happening.”

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”.

Music from a Strange Planet tackles the strange, the unexplained and the magical in this collection of twenty-four genre-bending short stories. It takes a deep look into the human soul, each story bending reality just a little to get to the heart of our fears and deepest desires. An awkward child wants to be a darkling beetle; a solitary man falls in love with a porcupine; an insomniac dentist and a former acrobat find each other in the depths of night, and much more. You’ll inhabit inner worlds and settings of the greater natural world. With a register that ranges from contemplative to comic, the immersive stories take you on a journey that is sometimes heart-breaking, always humane, and utterly unforgettable.

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?

All my life I’ve loved reading short stories, from Chekhov to Carver to Karen Russell. And so many more. My bookshelves burst with them. I love the compression and careful use of language that short fiction requires and so I began studying collections to see just how the great authors created their stories. Then I started writing my own, and at a crucial point I realized I had created an entire collection.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?

If you enjoy short stories, especially those crafted with humor, quirkiness  and a keen eye to language, you’ll enjoy this collection. And if you’re new to the genre, take a dive into these small fictional worlds. I’ve had many readers tell me they thought they didn’t like short stories but enjoyed this collection.

When did you first decide to become an author?

After years of being a freelance writer in all sorts of disciplines including journalism, theatre, film and literary arts reviews , government and education, I decided it was time to write my own book.

Is this the first book you’ve written?


What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?

The best thing is to be part of a small and often local group of authors who support each other’s books. The not-so-great part is, after the publisher has put out the main push, doing continued self-promotion. With so many different types of social media it can be exhausting and eat into your creative time.

Would you go traditional if a publisher came calling?  If so, why?  

I might be tempted. Less time spent doing your own promotion, a larger reader audience and maybe the prospect of being translated or landing a film adaptation.

Is there something in particular that motivates you (fame? fortune?)

As a quasi-hermit, fame and fortune are not on my top list for motivation. Crafting a well-written book that will interest and touch other people is my main goal.

Which writer, living or dead, do you most admire?

That’s a tough one. If we’re talking short fiction it would have to be Chekhov.


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